Linus Pauling was undoubtedly a great scientist. This is attested to by his Nobel Prize in chemistry and his many discoveries in this field. More important, from my perspective, he was also a great human being. He had an unflagging commitment to peace, which he expressed with intelligence and courage.
I met Linus Pauling in April 1991, when he was presented with the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s Lifetime Achievement Award for Distinguished Peace Leadership. It was a wonderful occasion, at which we also presented the XIVth Dalai Lama with an award for Distinguished Peace Leadership.
In April 1991 the Persian Gulf War had just ended, and Americans were in a particularly patriotic mood. Yellow ribbons abounded, and President Bush’s approval ratings were above 90 percent. In his acceptance speech, before an audience of more than 800 people, Dr. Pauling chose to address what had just happened in the Persian Gulf. He began with a syllogism:
“To kill and maim people is immoral.
War kills and maims people.
War is immoral.”
For Pauling it was that simple. On January 8th of that year he had taken out a quarter page ad in the New York Times with the heading, “Stop the Rush to War!” He paid for the ad himself. On January 18th, three days after the war began, he published another advertisement, this time in the Washington Post. It was an Open Letter to President Bush, and it contained the syllogism concluding that war is immoral. Again, Dr. Pauling paid for the ad himself.
In his acceptance speech for our award, Pauling noted that in the military operations of the Persian Gulf War some 300,000 Iraqis had been killed while some 150 Americans had died. The ratio was 2,000 to one. He concluded from this that what happened in the Persian Gulf was not a war.
“In a war,” he said, “you have opposing forces that fight and there are deaths on both sides and finally one side wins. In the old days perhaps this was a demonstration of the democratic process – the side with the biggest number of fighters won. This wasn’t a war. This you could call a massacre or slaughter, perhaps even murder.”
Speaking Truth to Power
Linus Pauling was extremely direct. He stated the truth as he saw it. He was honest and without concern that his views might be very unpopular. He spoke truth to power. He spoke truth whomever he addressed. He spoke truth in the face of overwhelming and irrational patriotic fervor.
In 1955, Pauling was one of 11 prominent signers of the Russell-Einstein Manifesto. That document called for an end to war, and posed the problem of our powerful new weapons in this way: “Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?” The Manifesto concluded with this famous statement:
“There lies before us, if we choose, continual progress in happiness, knowledge and wisdom. Shall we instead choose death, because we cannot forget our quarrels? We appeal, as human beings, to human beings; remember your humanity and forget the rest. If you can do so, the way lies open to a new Paradise; if you cannot, there lies before you the risk of universal death.”
In 1958 Linus Pauling published a book entitled No More War! In this book he stated, “I believe that there will never again be a great world war, if only the people of the United States and of the rest of the world can be informed in time about the present world situation. I believe that there will never be a war in which the terrible nuclear weapons – atom bombs, hydrogen bombs, superbombs – are used. I believe that the development of these terrible weapons forces us to move into a new period in the history of the world, a period of peace and reason, when world problems are not solved by war or by force, but are solved by the application of man’s power of reason, in a way that does justice to all nations and that benefits all people.”
The Scientists’ Petition To Stop Nuclear Testing
Pauling described in that book the terrible consequences of nuclear war. He also described the spurious arguments of Edward Teller for a so-called “clean” nuclear bomb. He also described a petition which he had prepared and circulated to scientists calling for an international agreement to stop the testing of nuclear weapons. The petition stated:
“We, the scientists whose names are signed below, urge that an international agreement to stop the testing of nuclear bombs be made now.
“Each nuclear bomb test spreads an added burden of radioactive elements over every part of the world. Each added amount of radiation causes damage to the health of human beings all over the world and causes damage to the pool of human germ plasm such as to lead to an increase in the number of seriously defective children that will be born in future generations.
“So long as these weapons are in the hands of only three powers an agreement for their control is feasible. If testing continues, and the possession of these weapons spreads to additional governments, the danger of outbreak of a cataclysmic nuclear war through reckless action of some irresponsible national leader will be greatly increased.
“An international agreement to stop the testing of nuclear bombs now could serve as a first step toward a more general disarmament and the ultimate effective abolition of nuclear weapons, averting the possibility of a nuclear war that would be a catastrophe to all humanity.
“We have in common with our fellow men a deep concern for the welfare of all human beings. As scientists we have knowledge of the dangers involved and therefore a special responsibility to make those dangers known. We deem it imperative that immediate action be taken to effect an international agreement to stop testing of all nuclear weapons.”
The petition was originally prepared for American scientists, but soon it was being signed by scientists around the world. By early 1958 the petition had been signed by 9,235 scientists, including 36 Nobel Laureates. On January 15, 1958, Pauling presented the petition with these signatures to Dag Hammarskjold, the Secretary-General of the United Nations. Later the number of signatories of the petition grew to 11,021, representing 49 countries, and 37 Nobel Laureates. All of these signatures were collected on the initiative of Linus Pauling and his wife, Ava Helen, who played a very instrumental role in his life and his work for peace.
Abolition of Nuclear Weapons
As a result of Dr. Pauling’s efforts and those of others, a Partial Test Ban Treaty was achieved in 1963. This was far less than Pauling had worked for. The treaty banned nuclear testing in the atmosphere, the oceans, and outer space, but it allowed testing to continue underground. In reality, it was an environmental treaty rather than a disarmament treaty. The treaty ultimately stopped atmospheric nuclear testing, with all of its hazards for human health. It did not, however, stop the nuclear arms race, which continued unabated for the next 35 years and in certain respects continues today.
Dr. Pauling’s petition called for the “ultimate effective abolition of nuclear weapons.” This great goal remains to be achieved, and it falls to us – all of us – to achieve it. This brings me to the tale of the second petition, a tale all of us can participate in completing.
In August 1997 a few of us working on Abolition 2000, which is a global network to abolish nuclear weapons, met in Santa Barbara for a brainstorming session. We decided that we needed a vehicle to go directly to the people for the cause of nuclear weapons abolition. We developed a simple petition, with three main points:
1. End the Nuclear Threat. End the nuclear threat by dealerting all nuclear weapons, withdrawing all nuclear weapons from foreign soil and international waters, separating warheads from delivery vehicles and disabling them, committing to unconditional no first use of nuclear weapons, and ceasing all nuclear weapons tests, including laboratory tests and “subcriticals.”
2. Sign the Treaty. Sign a Nuclear Weapons Convention by the year 2000, agreeing to the elimination of all nuclear weapons within a timebound framework.
3. Reallocate Resources. Reallocate resources to ensure a sustainable global future and to redress the environmental devastation and human suffering caused by nuclear weapons production and testing, which have been disproportionately borne by the world’s indigenous peoples.
Abolition 2000 Petition, Gathering the Signatures
A month later, I was in Japan to help commemorate the 40th anniversary of the call for the abolition of nuclear weapons issued by Josei Toda, the second president of Soka Gakkai. In speaking with an international youth group of Soka Gakkai International, I mentioned the Abolition 2000 petition and spoke of its three important points. To my great surprise, I received word the next month that the youth division of Soka Gakkai in the Hiroshima region had decided to gather signatures on this petition. They set their initial goal at one million signatures.
About a month later, I learned that signatures were to be gathered throughout Japan and the goal was 5 million signatures. In the end, in just three months, from November 1997 to January 1998, over 13 million signatures were gathered in Japan. One out of every nine persons in Japan signed the petition.
In April 1998 a representative sample of these signatures was presented in Geneva to Ambassador Wyzner, the chair of the 1998 preparatory committee meeting for the year 2000 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference.
The effort by the Soka Gakkai youth in Japan was highly commendable. I’m sure it would have been welcomed and applauded by both Josei Toda and Linus Pauling. But the effort must not stop there. We are continuing to gather signatures in other parts of the world, including the United States.
In my view, it is the United States, more than any other country, that must change its position on the abolition of nuclear weapons. Until the United States becomes seriously involved in this effort, the effort cannot succeed. And I am convinced that the United States will not become the leader of this effort until the people of this country demand of their government that it do so.
This is why this petition is so important, and why I enlist your help in reaching out to people all over this country to call for the phased elimination of all nuclear weapons. If we were to gather a number of signatures proportionate to our population as were gathered in Japan, we would need more than 25 million signatures. Can you imagine the power of presenting 25 million American signatures to the President and Congress? They would have to listen to us. They would have to act to achieve this end.
Moral Countries Lead the Way
Dr. Pauling concluded his speech at the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation by saying, “I hope that the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation will work in the effort to make the United States into a moral country that could lead the world into a future of morality, a future worthy of man’s intelligence.”
We are trying to do this, and I ask you to join in the effort to make the United States a moral country that could lead the way in achieving “a future worthy of man’s intelligence.”
To make the United States a moral country, we should take the following steps:
1. End the nuclear threat, and work to abolish all nuclear weapons from Earth. Nothing could be more immoral than threatening to murder hundreds of millions of innocent people in the name of national security. Remember this: nuclear weapons incinerate people. They are instruments of genocide that no sane nor moral person would ever want to be faced with using. And yet, even now, more than eight years into the post-Cold War era, we continue to rely upon these weapons and our official policy states that we will do so for the indefinite future. At many international conferences connected with the Non-Proliferation Treaty that I have attended, it has been the representatives of the United States who have thrown up the greatest stumbling blocks to nuclear disarmament. If we are to have a moral country this must change.
2. Support an Arms Trade Code of Conduct. Stop selling arms to dictators and countries that violate human rights. The United States has become the arms salesman to the world. We lead all other nations in the sale of armaments. If we are to be a moral country, we must cease this practice, and place strict limitations on the transfer of armaments to other nations.
3. Reallocate resources from military purposes to supporting adequate nutrition, health care, shelter and education for all members of society. The United States is the undisputed world champion in military spending. We spend more than the next 13 highest spending countries combined. These include Russia, Japan, United Kingdom, France, Germany and China. We need to realize that security requires more than military power. It also requires meeting human needs. A moral nation can be judged by its compassion toward its poorest and least fortunate members.
4. Abide by international law and work to strengthen it. On many occasions in our recent past we have chosen not to give our support to international law. We were in the minority of nations in opposing a global ban on landmines, although most of our allies supported this ban. We were again in the minority in opposing the creation of an International Criminal Court, although most of our allies supported the creation of this court – a court to hold individuals accountable for the worst violations of international law, the ones that we held the Nazi leaders accountable for at Nuremberg. Recently, we took it upon ourselves to bomb sites in Sudan and Afghanistan in retaliation for terrorist attacks rather than turning this matter over to the United Nations Security Council as we are required to do under international law. If we are to be a moral country, we cannot both fight terrorism and be terrorists ourselves.
5. End all covert actions designed to destabilize or overthrow foreign governments. If we wish to see governments changed in other countries, we should speak out and give support to the opposition. We should not, however, be secretly providing arms, fomenting revolution, or attempting political assassinations. If we are to be a moral country, we cannot use immoral means to achieve what we believe are good ends.
6. Work to resolve conflicts peacefully through negotiations, mediation, arbitration, and the International Court of Justice. There are many means to resolve conflicts short of violence, and to be a moral country we must support these means and use them. When a country is powerful militarily, as we are, there is a temptation to rely upon raw force rather than the power of the law. This temptation must be resisted.
7. Apply our science and technology in constructive ways for the good of humanity rather than in destructive ways. Far too much of our government research and development budget goes into ever more sophisticated weaponry. Despite having agreed to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, we are still conducting “subcritical” tests of nuclear weapons. In doing so, we violate the spirit, if not the letter, of the Treaty. If we are to be a moral country, we must shift our technological priorities to fighting infant mortality, combating disease, improving nutrition, eliminating pollution, and eradicating poverty.
8. Be honest with the American people. Stop hiding information under the guise of national security. Pursue a policy of informed consent. Without honesty and full information from the officials we elect, we cannot make informed decisions about the kind of future we choose for ourselves, our children and grandchildren. If we are to have a moral country, we must have an honest and open government.
There is, of course, more we must do to be a moral country, but these steps would set us on the right road. They are steps that I feel certain Linus Pauling would support with all his energy, and I encourage you to endorse them and work for them as well.
In the concluding chapter of his book, Linus Pauling wrote: “I believe that there is a greater power in the world than the evil power of military force, of nuclear bombs – there is the power of good, of morality, of humanitarianism.” He also wrote: “I believe in the power of the human spirit.”
There is no greater force than the power of the people when moved to action. The power of the people brought independence to India. It ended the war in Vietnam. It brought down the Berlin Wall. It ended the Cold War. It brought democracy to Eastern Europe and to Russia. It ended the Duvallier regime in Haiti, the Marcos regime in the Philippines, and the Suharto regime in Indonesia. It brought down the regime based on apartheid in South Africa, and brought forth a leader like Nelson Mandela who has lived with the spirit of forgiveness.
If the American people are moved to action, we can create a moral country. Our first step must be to end the intolerable threat that nuclear weapons pose for humanity. We must complete the task that Linus Pauling and other peace leaders began more than four decades ago. We stand on the threshold of a new century. Let us commit ourselves to crossing this threshold with a treaty in place to eliminate all nuclear weapons.
There is great power for both good and evil in the human spirit. Let us choose good, let us choose life, let us choose hope, let us choose peace. Let us work, as Linus Pauling did, to make our country “a moral country that could lead the world into a future of morality, a future worthy of man’s intelligence.” This was the challenge that Linus Pauling worked for during his life, and the legacy he has left to us.